First, a programming note. Columnist Dan Mason had a lengthy interview yesterday with the most versatile man on network television today, Mike Tirico. The story will appear next week on these pages. Here’s a snippet. With some 35 years of experience, Mike shared an enlightening point, comparing goals of budding broadcasters a generation ago to today:
“I think it’s interesting that most young sportscasters today want to be a host and have an opportunity to express their opinions whether on radio or television. When we came along, all we wanted to do was play by play and describe events. I think that’s a bit of a seed change of this ESPN generation.”
Look for the full profile next week.
It’s all in the family. The first families of sports broadcasting:
In the front office, there’s NBC’s powerful and progressive, Mark Lazarus. NBC Sports is under his aegis. Mark previously ran Turner Sports. His current title is Chairman, NBCUniversal Broadcast, Cable, Sports and News. Before the gregarious Mark got to NBC, his brother Peter Lazarus headed up NBC Sports Sales. Pete is still with the network as Senior VP, Ad Sales, at NBC Universal. A third sibling is Craig Lazarus, who’s been with ESPN for years. In 2017, Craig was named Vice President of Original Content and Features at ESPN. The family progenitor is John Lazarus, the three boys’ dad. Now retired, John headed up ABC Sports Sales in the days of Monday Night Football’s height. From first hand experience, I can tell you that the Lazaruses are good people. Mark is the first over-the-air network sports head to emerge from sales as opposed to production or programming.
Then there are the Albert siblings, Marv, Al and Steve. Marv certainly needs no introduction. He emerged onto the New York scene in the 1960s with gripping calls of Knicks and Rangers games on radio. Al followed, appointed in the early 1970s to do the Nets and Islanders on WHN Radio. After a New York run on radio and television, he moved to Denver where he was the longtime Voice of the Nuggets. Like Marv, Al did tons of boxing while at USA Network. He later was the Voice of the Indiana Pacers for a chunk of years. Al, the middle of the three brothers, lives in New York and is retired. Steve, the youngest of the trio, retired the cleats a couple years ago after a long NBA career with the Nets, Warriors and Suns. Steve was also a local sports anchor for WCBS-TV in New York. And yes, Steve too did lots of boxing.
Then there’s Kenny, Marv’s son. It’s hard to believe he’s already 51. He’s a chip off the old block. He loved hockey in particular, a Vancouver Canucks’ fan growing up. Kenny worked his tail off serving in the hockey minors, where he sharpened his skills. The game on ice is his forte. Kenny does football for Fox and covers basketball, baseball and boxing in utility roles. As solid a person that you’ll find in the business or out.
The patriarch was father Max Albert. It was he who changed the family name from Aufrichtig to Albert when Steve was in grade school. Max and granddad Nathan had a successful grocery store in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn under the eponymous name Aufrichtig’s. Nathan came to America from the old country at roughly the turn of the 20th century.
Former Indians’ and Giants’ second baseman Duane Kuiper has been with the San Francisco Giants since 1986 with the exception of 1993 when he joined the Colorado Rockies for their inaugural year. He returned to the Bay Area the following season and hasn’t moved since. Kuiper, Mike Krukow, Dave Flemming and Frick winner, Jon Miller work both TV and radio for the Giants and are all quite popular.
Kuiper’s brother, Glen, has been a television announcer for the Oakland A’s since 2004. He’s 12 years younger than Duane. Glen never played in the Big Leagues but did play 2nd base too, in the minors for the Spokane Indians. A third Kuiper of that generation is Jeff who produces the Giants telecasts and his been part of the broadcast team since 1987.
Recently, Duane’s son Cole Kuiper has partaken in a themed Giants television show, Triples Alley.
And, of course, we know about the Carays, three generations worth. Grandpa Harry, ranked by many, including baseball broadcast historian, Curt Smith in the top five of all-time MLB announcers. Not many broadcast stars were absolute institutions in two cities. Harry was adored in St. Louis and later admired in Chicago. He brought smiles to millions. Son Skip was one of the first regular season national voices of baseball when Turner’s Braves coverage was carried across America in the 80s. His wry wit and sardonic humor always made for an interesting broadcast. Grandson Chip, is a Braves telecaster and got his first break as the Voice of the Orlando Magic when the club went into business in 1989.
Another of the royal sportscasting families are the Kellys. Some say Dan Kelly was the best ever network television hockey announcer. He had a voice to kill and introduced hockey to millions on CBS as the league expanded beyond the Original Six. Dan was brought to St. Louis as Voice of the Blues in season#2 of the franchise, 1968-69. He was hired by KMOX’ legendary general manager, Bob Hyland. The coach of the expansion Blues was none other than Scotty Bowman, arguably the NHL’s best coach ever. Scotty was familiar with Dan’s work from their days in Canada and recommended Kelly to Hyland. Dan’s son John is the television announcer for the Blues and another son Daniel has worked in the NHL with Chicago, Columbus and St. Louis. Then’s there’s the siblings’ uncle, Hal Kelly, a hockey broadcaster in Canada and Minnesota.
While we’re at it, we should reference the Hylands, another three generational family of broadcasters. Rob Hyland currently holds a lofty position at NBC Sports. He’s coordinating Producer, Notre Dame Football, Football Night in America, Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Horse Racing, Figure Skating and Track & Field. His dad Robert Hyland III was a highly placed executive, managing a group of radio stations for CBS. Rob’s paternal grandfather, Bob Hyland, ran KMOX Radio in St. Louis forever. Bob Hyland gave Bob Costas an early big break and touched the careers of Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Dan Kelly, Joe Garagiola and many others. Interestingly too, Bob’s father and Rob’s great-grandfather was Robert Hyland Sr., the team physician for the two baseball teams in yesteryear St. Louis, the Cardinals and Browns. So sports and/or broadcasting doesn’t run in the Hyland family, it gallops! Costas once told me that Rob often pushes him for yet another story about the St. Louis legend Bob Hyland. It should also be pointed out that Jack Buck’s brother Bob Buck, an uncle of Joe Buck, also worked at KMOX.
(Look for a piece down the road on additional broadcast families. But featured above are those with three family members or more on top of the multi-party category.)
In September, as Marty Brennaman wound down his 47-year career as the Reds radio broadcaster, he was the toast of town and an ongoing subject of celebration all around Cincinnati. Marty has always bled the Reds’ colors, albeit strikingly honest about the struggles of the ball club. This past week when the Brewers played in Cincinnati, Milwaukee announcer Bob Uecker, 85, made the trip. Uke hardly travels these days.
I happened to stumble upon the broadcast while in the car listening to SiriusXM.
Uecker came into the booth and was wonderfully entertaining and humorous, spewing his warped sense of humor, both self-deprecating one-liners and Don Rickles’ like put-downs on the veteran Brennaman. Marty said, “Bob, you had an opportunity to play where you grew up in Wisconsin with the Milwaukee Braves and later broadcast there for almost 50 years.” Not losing a beat, Bob’s retort: “Yes, I was the first from Wisconsin to be drafted by the Braves. I was also the first player the Braves sent to the Major Leagues.”
We wish Marty the best in his retirement. We need more Martys. someone with an edge to his call. His son Thom is a solid baseball, football and basketball announcer.